Ever since the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020, several research institutes and private companies have been developing vaccines to curb the virus spread. Recently, Pfizer- BioNTech and Moderna have emerged as two promising vaccines, receiving emergency authorization in the United States and Canada, among other nations.
Typically, vaccine development requires several years of research and testing before they are dispersed or are manufactured for clinical distribution, but given the unprecedented time, researchers managed to discover new COVID-19 vaccine in a matter of months. This raised quite a few questions globally pertaining to its efficiency and safety.
Here are some of the crucial questions answered for the world population to understand the COVID-19 vaccine clearly.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine development rushed by pharma companies?
As mentioned earlier, for any vaccine or drug to gain approval for commercial distribution, there are different phases of trials required. Although, over the years, researchers have got experience with SARS and MERS, which significantly helped in identifying COVID-19 vaccine targets.
In fact, in developing the COVID-19 vaccines, researchers have used mRNA instead of growing cells in cell lines, which aided in placing mRNA to become highly immunogenic. Given the situation, the pandemic outbreak also helped companies conduct clinical trials easily, boosting vaccine development.
What is important to note is the recent technological developments, such as the implementation of AI and data analytics in the healthcare sector, have tremendously helped in both drug and vaccine discovery to a large extent.
How effective are the COVID-19 vaccines?
To explain, mRNA vaccines function by inserting an mRNA molecule in the body, which the cells present in the body study as instructions to develop specific proteins. These proteins are then recognized by the immune cells, which helps them make antibodies. Here, these antibodies are typically formers against the SARS-COV-2 virus, so when the actual virus enters the body, the immune system effectively destroys them.
Who will get the vaccine?
Several countries have collaborated with companies to secure vaccine access to recover from the pandemic. According to several news reports, around 8.15 billion doses have been set aside by many countries. However, Russia and China are heavily dependent on their domestic production, as several vaccines are under stage three trials in these countries.
In terms of vaccine deployment, people will be required to get two shots to obtain necessary protection, with the duration of the vaccine shots being three weeks apart for Pfizer and four weeks for Moderna. Further, early access to the vaccine is said to be given to healthcare workers, other frontline workers, the geriatric population, and immunocompromised individuals. As per CDC, there will be a restricted supply of the vaccines, which is important to be given fairly and ethically.
Will the COVID vaccine be available for pregnant women, children, and patients suffering from chronic conditions?
Among the vulnerable section, pregnant women and children were not included in the clinical trials to ensure safety. In such a scenario, they might have to wait until the vaccine’s general dispersant starts in the months ahead. Even the patients suffering from chronic conditions, such as brain diseases, cancers, and others, will be among the first to receive the vaccine in line with their current treatment.
With this, vaccine companies need to concentrate on vaccine storage to meet global demand. Here, compound management solutions work efficiently to effectively track the dosages without losing track of the vaccine availability.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?
As per recent trials, the vaccine has proven to work effectively. One of the major concerns is, will the vaccine cause a person to be infected with the virus? Here the clear answer is no, as mRNA entails only instructions to form spike protein. The COVID-19 virus is composed of several proteins that infect the human body, and since the spike protein alone cannot replicate in the cells, it becomes unlikely for it to cause the infection.
What are the potential side-effects of Pfizer and Moderna’s Vaccine?
When compared to a normal flu shot, the COVID-19 vaccine may have acute side-effects. But they are highly unlikely to cause long-term damages. According to the FDA, the most common side effects people experienced after getting the Pfizer vaccine were chills, fever, joint pain, tiredness, and headaches. On the other hand, the side effects were slightly higher after getting Moderna’s vaccine, as stated by Science Magazine.
Nevertheless, these side effects are usually developed in the first month, and do not have any long-term effect. For instance, around 35,000 people have been vaccinated and have stated to be doing well after frequent follow-up. Additionally, the CDC recommends people consult their doctor in the case of being allergic to other vaccines or injectable therapies.
Will it be mandatory to take the COVID-19 vaccine?
As per researchers, around 70-80 percent of people need to be vaccinated to attain a form of herd immunity to slow down the virus spread. Even the people vaccinated or cured after contracting the virus are advised by authorities to wear a mask and follow protocols as there is no conclusive evidence stating which is better natural virus immunity or vaccine. Although, a vaccine is expected to give robust immunity.
In the months ahead, the vaccine distribution is expected to end the pandemic gradually. But it is important to understand that it is not going to end the practice of social distancing and use of hand sanitizers overnight. Here, one of the reasons is that, given the global population, the vaccination process will take time to reach each person, which indicates that the mask culture will remain longer even after being vaccinated.
In the United Kingdom, there is a new strain of the virus detected on which the experts are researching now. This has further initiated travel bans from the UK in multiple countries. Nevertheless, this vaccine development is a step in emerging out of the pandemic, providing a blueprint for health practitioners to further develop the vaccine in the upcoming years.